The Prince

By Niccolò Machiavelli; Peter Bondanella et al. | Go to book overview

TRANSLATORS' NOTE

TO THIS EDITION

Given the central place The Prince occupies in the history of political thought or its crucial role in Italian Renaissance culture, it is perhaps inevitable that most readers of the work in English translation concern themselves more with its ideas and content than with its form and style. However, Niccolò Machiavelli was a superb stylist, a political theorist whose best pages are always illuminated by the imagination of a poet and informed by a keen awareness of literary tradition. The present translation, substantially revised since its initial appearance in The Portable Machiavelli (Penguin, Harmondsworth, 1979), attempts to represent Machiavelli's ideas accurately and faithfully and to reflect the author's prose style as well. While many recent translators of The Prince have felt it necessary to shorten Machiavelli's ample periods in an attempt to simplify the text and to make it more attractive to contemporary readers, we have remained faithful, insofar as possible, to Machiavelli's more complex sentence structure. Great books have earned the right to make certain demands upon their readers, and Machiavelli's writing is never so obscure that it requires extensive modern editing of this kind.

Machiavelli's political vocabulary presents a vexing problem to any translator. Much of recent scholarship has quite rightly focused upon the several key terms employed in The Prince (one thinks immediately of publications by Fredi Chiappelli, Nicolai Rubinstein, J. H. Whitfield, Felix Gilbert, J. H. Hexter, Russell Price, Neal Wood, and a number of other scholars listed in the bibliography Important terms such as virtù, stato, occasione, fortuna, prudenza, libertà, ordini, vivere civile, gloria, and fantasia often have no single and systematic equivalents in the English language. In fact, to explain the meaning of such individual terms in Machiavelli's work, entire critical articles are often required in order to cover all the

-xvii-

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